They say to never judge a book by its front cover. But why not?
I’ve long-since claimed that “Judge not lest you be judged” is one of the most misquoted Bible verses in the history of misquoted Bible verses. While the actual meaning behind it – don’t be a hypocritical snothead – is a good one, we’ve turned it into an overall meaningless cliché.
Judging is a necessary part of life. If you take issue with that statement, then you just judged it. The same goes for if you find yourself agreeing with it. We make countless judgement calls a day, starting with whether we should get up in the morning and ending with what time we go to bed.
Think that’s not the same thing at all? It would take far too much blog post space to make a convincing argument otherwise. So let’s consider the following instances where our more critical and common understanding of “judge not” completely falls apart:
In our legal system – If we didn’t judge, we’d have a lot of murderers, rapists, arsonists and other societally destructive people out on the streets.
In how to dress – It’s freezing cold outside with five inches of snow. Are we really going to go outside to shovel our cars in flip-flops? That sounds like a great way to lose a toe!
In where to go – We’re in Baltimore city, it’s dusky and there’s a back alley shortcut we could take to shave off three minutes’ worth of walking. Or we could just take the main roads and not risk being clubbed to death by a bunch of teenaged hooligans.
As at least somewhat evidenced by the examples above, setting aside the incorrect interpretation of “judge not” can save us a lot of physical, spiritual, emotional and/or financial suffering. By appropriately judging before we leap, we can avoid turning into people we don’t want to be with lives we don’t want to lead going places we don’t want to go.
For that matter, being judged isn’t a necessarily horrible thing either. It holds us to a higher standard as human beings and as individuals… including if that individual is a writer.
So don’t get all snippy that people most certainly will judge your book by its front cover. Instead, look at it this way.
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but oh do we ever. In our defense, we have some reason to.
A fiction or non-fiction book’s front cover is its clothing. The clothing it wears to a job interview, to be exact, which makes each potential reader a hiring manager.
Would you hire someone who looks unfit for your workplace needs? Probably not. And you’re also probably not going to buy a book with a front cover that looks like it won’t entertain or inform you appropriately.
Why should you? Why should anyone?
If we didn’t judge a book by its cover, we’d spend a whole lot of precious time in bookstores or online picking out the fiction or non-fiction reads we’re looking for. Or we’d spend a whole lot of precious money on a whole lot of books we’ll never be able to get through.
So authors and authors-in-the-making, just admit the following facts:
You do judge a book by its cover.
It’s not always a bad thing.
Your potential readers are going to do it regardless.